Theologians, pastors, ethicists, lawyers and sociologists from all over Slovakia – from the left and right of the spectrum of our society were again discussing important scientific topics.
The Alexander Spesz Institute of applied ethics at the Faculty of Theology of Catholic University organized an important event, „The Week of Ethics in Košice“ from April 8-11. 2014. Collaborators of the Institute take part in scientific research within a few exchange programs of the Central European network CEEPUS and, together with collegues from the Chamber of medical law, prepared this unique event for participating professors and students from foreign universities – members of the CEEPUS network.
„The Week of Ethics“ started on Tuesday, April 8th, with a workshop about the value of human life in Islam. The workshop was led by doctoral students from Pécs, Graz and Opole for students from the faculty of theology and students studying applied ethics at the philosophical faculty of the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University. The main lecturers were Mag. Elisabeth Zissler (Graz) who has been doing research in Istanbul recently and who was speaking about the problem of male circumcission in Islam which is a real topic in Western society (especially in Austria) and Dr. Janus Podzielny (Opole) – he talked about genital circumcision of girls in Islam. A surprise to students, there is a big difference between moral perspectives and all could unite and clearly condemn female mutilation meanwhile male circumcision was shown to be profitable from the perspective of health. Thanks to Dr. Jesenková and her students of applied ethics, there was a huge and fruitful discussion about religious rights as the background of civil law.
The workshop was followed by the lecture of Prof. Walter Schaupp (Graz) which was made for spiritual educators, pastors and Church leaders. The title of the lecture was Sexual Ethics after Scandals of Sexual Abuse in the Austrian Catholic Church. Together with many important personalities present at the lecture there was also the archbishop, Mons. Bernard Bober. Prof. Schaupp was not only talking about this difficult topic but offered modern moral-theological solutions for pastoral practice in the 21st century.
The next day, on April 9th, the Faculty of Theology became the host for foreign experts of moral theology and political science who, being aware of the current laicised and multicultural European society, together tried to draw the way of Looking for the Personal Identity of the Biblical Person Coming into Political Society in the 21st society.
As a special guest who accepted our invitation, we were honored to welcome Msgr. Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P., who is the archivist of the Holy Roman Church in the Vatican Library. In his speech called God Who Speaks in Heart of Man, he remembered the words of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who, citing Plato, called young people to „look for the truth while being young. If you will not do it now, it will flee away.“ Simultanously, he highlighted the threat of the present phenomenon of individualism within the European political and democratic context in which human desires are gaining juridicial power regardless the objective reality of the truth. He underlined that in the conscience of every single man there is ability to explore the truth. Conscience which is known as conscientia (in Latin) derives from cum scientia which leads us to the knowledge that every man is able to think scientifically and in accordance with his conscience at the same time. Besides this, he is able to see truth and goodness. Faith and reason do not negate each other. On the contrary, they need each other and what is more, as Monsignor remembers, the future of our civilization depends on this dialogue between faith and reason. Otherwise there is a danger of justifying different totalitarian regimes, genocides or wars with the dictatorship of relativism and new ideologies. Unfortunately, our times have already been marked by such logic.
The next lecturer we heard is an Austrian doctor and theologian, vice-chairman of the ethics commission of the Austrian chancellor, Prof. Walter Schaupp. He presented his topic Soul of an Embryo. Anthropology and Ethics Yesterday and Today, where he showed us past views on animation of a human being in its prenatal development as well as different understandings of the role of the man and the woman in this process. During the centuries the process of thinking has been changing significantly according to the scientific knowledge of prenatal development. That is why this question becomes remarkably real for widely spread in vitro fertilisation during which, in many countries, there is either the elimination of a large number of surplus embryos or the freezing of them without an answer about their future. This question will soon play one of the main roles in politics of European parties especially concerning Christian Democrats and People´s political parties.
Dean emeritus and professor at the Theological faculty of Salzburg´s University as well as the former director of the Austrian section of the European society for Catholic theology, Dr. Werner Wolbert related the different theories explaining the beginning of life, and he underlined the complicated and ambiguous vocabulary of theories of law in modern society.
Our last speaker of the conference was Frederic van Iersel who is a Dutch social ethicist and an expert on religion and ethics in international conflicts as a lecturer at The Catholic University in Tilburg.
His topic was concerning the pillars of social teaching of the Church and their implementation in Duch society. His lecture also brought suggestions into the discussion about the situation in Slovakia. As the most important pillars through which the Church can fortify society, he sees principally the integration of moral values at the expense of the abstract ones offered by relativism; the immediate idea of the dignity of human person for democratic society; solidarity – rich versus poor as well as intergenerational solidarity; dialogue with the state representatives who can be given not only spiritual inspiration but also cognitive orientation by the Church; post-pragmatic view on the state – minimum state with the criteria for functioning for the common good and concept of human dignity; and ultimately, the Church offers the normative frame for state within which ideas can operate towards social direction and at the same time help to create a fair and ecological society which will avoid armed conflicts.
The conference ended solemnly by the Alexander Spesz Instute Prix Award which was given to Monsignor Bruguès in occassion of his 70-year jubilee and for his contribution into ethics and moral theology abroad and in Slovakia where more than 20 years ago he was teaching moral theology in the priestly seminary in Spiš.
The week of ethics culminated in a jointly organized conference by the Chamber of Medical Law Medius and by the Alexander Spesz Institute of Applied Ethics (IAEAS) with title: Reproductive Rights of Women in the Center of Interest. Participants of the conference were renowned experts from all over Slovakia. In cooperation, doctors (Prof. Lukačin, Slovakia; Prof. Klimek, Poland; Dr. Rosoch, Dr. Petrenko and Dr. Miklosi from Health Ministry; Prof. Kroell, Austria and Dr. Kollár), lawyers (Ing. Synek), psychologists (Mag. Celušáková), ethicists and theologians (Dr. Hunsthorfer, Prof. Schaupp, Mons. Bruguès, Prof. Van Iersel, Prof. Wolbert) and many others were trying to discuss the topics, sometimes from very different ideological points of view, for two days. The presence of conservative Catholic representatives as well as representatives of the liberal spectrum of our society and their dialogue and looking for paths for mutual understanding and cooperation was perhaps the most valuble thing which could have occured within the scientific arena. Publications from the conferenc are available on the webpage of Medius. The realization of the mutual need of all experts was the most important success of this meeting and fruitful dialogue without an ideological fight was the result of the real interest to listen to opinions of the other side. Hearing of the „Catholic“ solution to problems of infertility through NAPRO technology (by Ing. Dydňanská from association PLODAR) and her dialogue with Dr. Petrenko who was representing the widely spread invitro fertilization, which is condemned by the Catholic Church, was an example of such dialogue.
The conference of Medius and IEAES begins to have an undeniable place in the Slovak scientific society. Consequently, there is already a new conference prepared for the next year which will be dedicated to Certainty of Law versus Uncertainty of Life. Oncological Patient: Multidisciplinar Challenges from the Medical, Bioethical and Juridicial View.
„The Week of Ethics 2014“ brought many impulses for bioethics in Slovakia. There is a hope that this type of work will find its supporters in opposing scientific fields which do not normally cooperate.
Author: Prof. Ass. Dr. Dipl. Ing. Inocent-Mária V. Szaniszló OP, PhD. /Mgr. Ivana Pločicová, Alexander Spesz Institute of Applied Ethics Košice, Faculty of theology Catholic University in Ružomberok